Road-heavy stretch to finish 2014-15 season could determine Pistons playoff chances
David Liam Kyle (NBAE/Getty)
Stan Van Gundy has set day-by-day improvement alongside playing hard every night as twin objectives of his debut season as Pistons coach. That sort of steady progress will be critical to their playoff survival because the toughest portion of their schedule, unquestionably, comes deep into the second half of the 2014-15 season.
Beginning with the last game of February at rising Eastern contender Washington, the Pistons will play 13 of 18 games on the road. A dozen of those 18 games come against 2014 playoff teams. Included will be seven games against Eastern Conference playoff teams from last season, two apiece against Charlotte and Chicago.
Whether the Pistons make the playoffs or not might well come down to how much momentum they can gather going into that stretch and how they weather the travails of such a road-heavy finish.
The Pistons both start and finish the season with a pair of road games. They’ll play at Denver on Oct. 29 and the next night at Minnesota. The home opener comes on Nov. 1 against the Brooklyn Nets. The Pistons then host New York, Milwaukee and Utah before embarking on their longest road trip of the season, four games in six nights. Unlike recent Novembers, though, this one won’t take the Pistons to the West Coast but to Chicago, Washington, Oklahoma City and Memphis. The Pistons have one other four-game trip covering five nights in March.
Another notable difference to the 2014-15 schedule: an extended All-Star break. After hosting defending NBA champion San Antonio on Feb. 11, the Pistons will be off until hosting Chicago on Feb. 20.
The schedule includes 22 sets of back-to-back games, nine of the home-away variety and seven away-away sets. That includes four straight sets of back-to-back games amid the grinding March schedule.
January will be their busiest month with 17 games. The Pistons play their most home games, nine, in November, but 10 of their 15 March games – the heart of their road-heavy stretch – will be away from The Palace. Fifteen of the final 24 games, in fact, will be on the road, including a trip to Cleveland and New York April 13-15 to finish the 82-game schedule.
LeBron James makes his return debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 27 and comes back on Feb. 24. Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers come to town on Dec. 2 and Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City follow later that week on Dec. 7.
Weekends again dominate the home schedule with the Pistons hosting nine Friday games at The Palace, seven on Saturdays and eight on Sundays. That’s 24 of their 41 home games falling on weekend dates. The Pistons also play eight home games apiece on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Nineteen games in all fall on Wednesday.
The typically busy Thanksgiving holiday schedule looks especially attractive this season with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers visiting on Thanksgiving eve, Milwaukee and No. 2 pick Jabari Parker coming on Black Friday and high-scoring Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors wrapping it up with a Sunday matinee.
The four Eastern Conference teams the Pistons will face just three times – they play the other 10 four times apiece, including all four of their Midwest Division peers – are Brooklyn, Boston, Miami and Washington. The Celtics and Wizards visit The Palace just once each.